Feed on

This is the first in a series of what to do when you discover you can no longer eat gluten.

There are two ways to figure out that gluten can’t be a part of your diet anymore.  Either you get a diagnosis, or you try an elimination diet and discover that many of your issues are resolving.  No matter which way you figure it out, its bound to affect you emotionally.

A few days ago, I got a comment from a friend on one of my social networks who had read my post about “Getting Glutened“. In that comment, my friend said.

Ok, this blog just scared me. Half the symptoms she was relating – joint pain, tooth enamel issues, IBS, and a few of the others, I have all the time. I can’t imagine having to be gluten free, it would eliminate more than half my diet. I don’t eat many veggies because I don’t like them and while I’ve made some progress in learning to like some of them, I still don’t eat enough. If I have to go gluten free for health reasons, I think I’ll starve to death!

This is a fairly common reaction, both the visceral, “What would I eat” to “How can I give up the things I like”.  Even when we have the aches and pains that might be resolved by changing our diets, we resist. Its human nature to resist change. The idea of giving up foods that we like and that we are familiar with is frightening.

So you have a choice.  And in many ways its a simple one. Do you choose to try to change your diet to better your health, or do you continue down the same road you are on already, eating foods that you know might be harming you, complaining about that and not doing anything to change?

For me, the choice was simple, but not always easy. I gave up on gluten. I chose to feel good and eat in a way that helps me feel good. To me, feeling good far outweighs the momentary taste of something. It hasn’t been easy (I really miss a good beer and most gluten free beers don’t hit the mark so I haven’t had a beer since January when I went back on gluten for testing). But the fact is that gluten isn’t good for me and I chose to give it up.

Elizabeth  Kübler-Ross  wrote a book many years ago “On Death and Dying” , which introduced the five stages of grief.  These stages don’t just apply to death, they apply to any loss, even the loss of foods.

The first stage is denial. My friend has that.  “I can’t give up my bread”.  I have literally had people tell me that they would die if they couldn’t have bread. “I don’t have this disease. All these symptoms that I am presenting must be from something else that can be cured with a pill”. We always want an easy fix that doesn’t require much from us. Sometimes the fix isn’t that easy. Sometimes I still think that  I am just making all this up and maybe I’m really okay.  For me, I simply have to flash my memory back to January 2011 when I was sick for most of it because I was eating bread with every meal in preparation for being tested for gluten. My sister-in-law told me that my nephew (who was diagnosed Celiac) ate a cookie recently because he hoped his Celiac was gone.  Its normal to wish it were gone. The reality is that whether you are gluten intolerant or celiac, most likely you will never be able to eat something with gluten in it again. While some people who are celiac don’t present with any specific symptoms, the reality is that the gluten is causing major issues in their intestines.

Then comes anger, the anger that derives from how problematic this can be. I get angry because being gluten intolerant makes it harder for me to be social. Going out to eat is problematic. Eating at friends homes is problematic. Most people assume gluten is bread and pasta and forget to tell you that there is flour in something. It just doesn’t always register for them and it shouldn’t have to.  My eating habits are not everyone elses’s problems.  So there are adjustments to be made all the time. Food is a very social aspect for most of us and navigating the social when your food requirements set you apart is not easy, (especially for children who usually just want to fit in with their peers). So anger that we are different, that we always have to be vigilant about what we eat.

Bargaining – Sometimes we bargain with ourselves, “I’ll just have a bite of that pizza, one bite can’t hurt me.”  Unfortunately it can.  Just a small amount of gluten can cause problems for someone. I can get glutened from cross contamination. When it happens I suffer stomach cramps and other bowel indignities for days. I spend a few weeks feeling lethargic and find it hard to think.  Now that I realize the consequences, I choose not to try to bargain, but for many people, especially near the beginning, its common.

Depression – Its easy to go there. To simply sink down and decide that life is over. Feeling sorry for yourself is okay. Its a major life change that is happening and its not one of our choosing. If you need to get counseling to help you deal with this, then please to do.

And finally we come to Acceptance – we finally realize that  being gluten intolerant or celiac is not a death sentence. The death sentence is only there if you choose to ignore the cure. We realize that there are so many foods out there that are naturally gluten free, and that experimentation lies before us.  As we delve into these challenges, we realize that not only are the challenges not as scary as we thought, but that new tastes abound.

The cure is both simple and complex.  Simple, because you simply have to change your diet to eliminate gluten. Complex because gluten exists in so many of our foods.  And the first step towards embracing getting your life back starts with your pantry, your refrigerator and your freezer. Which will be the subject of my next post in this series.


  1. Gluten Free Series: Discovering The Need To Be Gluten Free
  2. Gluten Free Series: Holidays and Gluten and Thanksgiving
  3. Gluten Free Series: Cleaning up your Pantry
  4. Gluten Free Series: Eating Out
  5. Gluten Free Series: Kitchen Equipment, What Can Stay, What Can Go

Comments are closed.